Rupa was 13-years-old when she moved to Canada from India with her parents and older sister. They came here because her father received a good job offer. Like many immigrants, Rupa’s parents felt this was a wonderful opportunity to offer their kids a better life and education. Because they arrived after the school year ended, Rupa had the summer to become acquainted with Canadian life. Isolated by limited English and with no friends in Canada, Rupa felt scared and nervous.
Rupa’s mom was eager to help her struggling daughters overcome the obstacles of such a big change in their young lives. She found out about Big Brothers Big Sisters Conversation Club and knew it would make the transition easier for her children. This program was the perfect way to help Rupa and her sister adjust to Canadian culture and make new friends.
Conversation Club is an after school program funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. It introduces new Canadians youth ages 12 – 18 to volunteer mentors between the ages of 16 – 25. The weekly, one hour group meeting lets participants practice conversational English and presentation skills in a non-judgemental setting with their peers. They also learn about Canada by sharing experiences and common interests and can get help with homework. The Conversation Club program runs year-round and is supervised by Conversation Club Caseworkers.
Rupa immediately felt comfortable at her first visit to Conversation Club. “Everyone was so welcoming and I loved learning about new things in Canadian culture like some of the holidays and social events such as Halloween and Thanksgiving”, she said.
It’s difficult to imagine the confident Rupa we know today used to be so different. She speaks English perfectly and credits Conversation Club for helping her not just with language but also with learning about Canadian youth culture and about sports like ice hockey, football and lacrosse.
But kids can’t fully learn about that culture and lifestyle in a class! They have to get out and experience it through trips to the Ontario Science Centre, Playdium, and everyone’s Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Peel favourite – bowling. Those are some of Rupa’s happiest Conversation Club memories.
Three years after her first BBBSP Conversation Club session, Rupa is a regular and welcome part of the group. She has forged great bonds with many friends and now helps youth bridge the gap between their old lives elsewhere and their new ones in Peel.